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Nonprofit raises more money, renegotiates price for Gold Coin Motel

Jack Tibbetts came up $1 million short in April when he asked Sonoma County homelessness leaders for money to convert a Santa Rosa motel into housing for the homeless.

Tibbetts, St. Vincent de Paul Sonoma County executive director and a Santa Rosa City Council member, requested $2.5 million to transform the Gold Coin Motel on Mendocino Avenue. He planned to house more than 50 people there while providing them with case management services to help keep their lives on track, emulating the success of the Palms Inn in south Santa Rosa

Tibbetts, however, had to scramble to pull together grant funding from private sources when the leadership council of Home Sonoma County - a regional entity tasked with allocating roughly $14.1 million this year for homeless projects and services - offered to provide just under $1.48 million. He also had to renegotiate a lower price for the motel, which also features a popular Thai restaurant.

The property owner, Pimjai Thongslip, agreed to reduce the price from $6.5 million to $5.75 million, Tibbetts said. That and recent grants from local sources have lent much-needed capital and momentum to the Gold Coin project.

For a time, he said, “We thought we could be in an unrecoverable position.”

Carlos Rivas, a local commercial real estate broker representing both the seller and the buyer, said his understanding was that Thongslip, who could not be reached for comment last week, wanted to retire after spending years running both the motel and Jhanthong Banbua restaurant for the better part of the past two decades.

“She’s owned it for so long and would love to not have the management issues,” Rivas said. “There’s just a lot of work to that.”

While Tibbetts remains shy of his fundraising goal, he’s confident the nonprofit will lock down a loan in the next few months, acquire the property by November and reach full occupancy by next July.

“Obviously, this real estate deal has been a roller coaster of a ride,” Tibbetts said.

He started with $900,000 from a St. Vincent de Paul endowment.

In addition to the money from Home Sonoma County, a group that aims to reduce the county’s homeless population of 3,000 by 20%, the motel project received $500,000 from the family of Ken Martin, the self-made property manager.

“They were the first through the door to offer help and support, and I think it has really led to others jumping in,” Tibbetts said.

St. Joseph Health Sonoma County also chipped in $500,000.

“This type of investment is part of our ongoing commitment to improve the health of our community and is incorporated into our regular hospital operating expenses,” said Dan Schurman, St. Joseph’s community health investment manager.

Another $250,000 came from the Sonoma County Vintners with advocacy help from Karin Demarest, vice president of programs for Community Foundation Sonoma County. The money from the winemakers group comes from $2.5 million in proceeds from a lot in a September charity auction dedicated to funding housing efforts, said Michael Haney, executive director of the vintners group.

“After the fires, of course, we wanted to make an impact,” Haney said. “So housing or fire-related housing problems were definitely something that we wanted to address.”

Despite Tibbetts’ efforts, St. Vincent de Paul’s bid is still a few hundred thousand dollars short of the roughly $4 million needed to secure a loan for the project.

The nonprofit is working with Community Vision, a San Francisco-based nonprofit lender formerly known as the Northern California Community Loan Fund, to secure a loan necessary for the $7.5 million needed to buy and renovate the property, Tibbetts said.

The lender has been “a great partner to work with thus far,” Tibbetts said. “They are incredibly knowledgeable and seem committed to lending to offbeat projects like ours that have community benefit.”

Dan McDonald, the deputy director of lending at Community Vision, said his nonprofit looks to promote racial and economic equity by lending millions toward projects like the Gold Coin redevelopment, which he called “constrained by capital and complicated.”

“This certainly qualifies as a worthy project for our lending,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer ?Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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